2016 Moderator Election Q&A - Questionnaire

In connection with the moderator elections, we are holding a Q&A thread for the candidates. Questions collected from an earlier thread have been compiled into this one, which shall now serve as the space for the candidates to provide their answers. Not every question was compiled - as noted, we only selected the top 8 questions as submitted by the community, plus 2 pre-set questions from us. Though two of them were backups of ours, wahaha~ ♪

As a candidate, your job is simple - post an answer to this question, citing each of the questions and then post your answer to each question given in that same answer. For your convenience, I will include all of the questions in quote format with a break in between each, suitable for you to insert your answers. Just copy the whole thing after the first set of three dashes. Oh, and please consider putting your name at the top of your post so that readers will know who you are before they finish reading everything you have written.

Once all the answers have been compiled, this will serve as a transcript for voters to view the thoughts of their candidates, and will be appropriately linked in the Election page.

Good luck to all of the candidates!

1. A new-ish user posts a well-posed challenge that quickly gets many answers. An hour later, they edit in a restriction that invalidates most of the existing answers. An experienced user whose answer was invalidated comments that doing this is bad, and rolls back the edit. The poster insists on the change and re-adds it, and the two get into an edit war. Someone flags for moderator attention. What would you do in this situation as a moderator?

2. What is the threshold for using your mod-hammer vs. letting the community take care of issues? In other words, will you be mostly laissez-faire with posts and let the close/delete vote system sort out the good posts from the bad? Or will you personally decide that a post doesn't meet quality standards and mod-hammer it (note that this does not apply to obvious spam and the like).

3. One of the biggest difficulties for moderators and high-rep users is to distinguish certain posts from being in-scope or not. There are three critical elements of the PPCG.SE scope, namely the three close reasons: Too broad, opinion-based, and unclear what you're asking. What distinguishes a challenge as too broad or opinion-based? How clear does a challenge need to be to be in-scope? Can you specify your limits on these types of close reasons and your definition of each?

4. In what way do you feel that being a moderator will make you more effective as opposed to simply reaching 10k or 20k rep? This has different implications for different candidates, as some have already reached the permissions thresholds. As a high rep, what do you look to gain with a diamond? As a low rep, why should you earn the tools this way rather than by earning reputation?

5. How would you deal with a user who produced a steady stream of valuable answers, but tends to generate a large number of arguments/flags from comments?

6. How would you handle a situation where another mod closed/deleted/etc a question that you feel shouldn't have been?

7. How will you help the site fit in with the SE network better? We are not a Q&A site! However, a most of the features built in to the site are designed for Q&A sites. Will you effectively be an ambassador for our site, and help us get site-specific customizations to fit our mission better? Or would you help the site narrow it's scope to fit that of a Q&A site better? Something else?

8. What would your average moderation schedule be like? When will you be active? What day(s)/time(s) would it be best for people to contact you in case of a need of a moderator? (This is of course an estimated schedule, and nobody will hold you accountable to it)

9. What's your opinion on letting experienced users essentially re-write a challenge that has potential but is badly worded or specified? I've done this once or twice because rewriting is far easier for me than explaining what is wrong (possibly multiple times).

10. A diamond will be attached to everything you say and have said in the past, including questions, answers and comments. Everything you will do will be seen under a different light. How do you feel about that?

Martin Büttner

1. A new-ish user posts a well-posed challenge that quickly gets many answers. An hour later, they edit in a restriction that invalidates most of the existing answers. An experienced user whose answer was invalidated comments that doing this is bad, and rolls back the edit. The poster insists on the change and re-adds it, and the two get into an edit war. Someone flags for moderator attention. What would you do in this situation as a moderator?

I believe we don't have a real, recent consensus on the matter of challenge ownership. There is this post from more than a year ago but I'm not entirely sure it covers all the nuances, especially not the question of what to do when the original author disagrees with the improvement. Rollback wars can be an issue on any SE site, not just here. It's just that here the prospect of invalidating answers makes matters even worse. In the absence of an explicit policy on meta, I would probably grant the original author the right to include the additional restriction. It may be an unpopular or unfortunate change, but rule changes are allowed although they're often a bad idea. Depending on whether the invalidating restriction actually improves the challenge, I would also leave a comment with a recommendation to rethink whether the restriction is really necessary, and would warn the author that this change may attract downvotes. However, for low-rep users whose edits go through the review queue, there is a reject reason if the edit "conflicts with the author's intent", and this is clearly the case for the edit made by the hypothetical high-rep user in the above scenario, so I think it would be original author's privilege to decide on the final form of the post.

It would probably be good to have a clearer picture on the question of challenge ownership though, and we should probably discuss this some time on meta — ideally before the above situation occurs.

1. What is the threshold for using your mod-hammer vs. letting the community take care of issues? In other words, will you be mostly laissez-faire with posts and let the close/delete vote system sort out the good posts from the bad? Or will you personally decide that a post doesn't meet quality standards and mod-hammer it (note that this does not apply to obvious spam and the like).

I'm fully aware that I don't have a close vote. If I'm at all in doubt, I will refrain from using my mod hammer, or I'll bring it up with the other moderators privately to get some feedback before making a unilateral decision. This is apparent from my review queue stats: the only review queues I'm not leading at the moment are Close and Reopen, because I often skip those when I think the case is sufficiently borderline for the community to find a consensus on its own. That doesn't mean I never use my mod hammer. There are a lot of cases where it's clear. Some popularity contests are obviously too broad ("write any code"), and it's often obvious if a challenge is sufficiently unclear to be closed — if I can find two valid interpretations of the rules, or an important edge case that isn't covered, that's evidence enough that the spec needs to be improved because incoming answers are likely going to solve a different problem than the one the OP intended (to varying degrees). When I do use my mod hammer, I try to keep an eye on the challenge, so I can reopen it once the problems have been fixed, or if it turns out I was mistaken. In any case, I'll almost always accompany the mod hammer with a friendly comment. And I don't view question closure as a punishment or death sentence for the challenge. The main purpose of putting things on hold is to protect the challenge from answers that exploit loopholes, such that the spec can be fixed or improved before that invalidates any answers — so if I have the opportunity to protect such a challenge immediately, I won't hesitate to do so.

1. One of the biggest difficulties for moderators and high-rep users is to distinguish certain posts from being in-scope or not. There are three critical elements of the PPCG.SE scope, namely the three close reasons: Too broad, opinion-based, and unclear what you're asking. What distinguishes a challenge as too broad or opinion-based? How clear does a challenge need to be to be in-scope? Can you specify your limits on these types of close reasons and your definition of each?

For a start, I don't think I've ever used "primarily opinion-based" here. On PPCG that's pretty much always covered by "doesn't have an objective winning criterion". I suppose "primarily opinion-based" could be used as a stand-in for "doesn't have an objective validity criterion", but I haven't used it like that so far. Anyway, I'll base this answer on distinguishing between too broad, no objective winning criterion and unclear.

• Not having an objective winning criterion is the most obvious one. It's usually very easy to tell whether a question has an objective criterion or not, because most either have an established one (code golf, fastest code, popularity contest), or they don't have one at all. Having a non-objective winning criterion is very rare, but it's a case of "you'll know it when you see it". Often this is something like accepting the best reproduction of an image without specifying how image similarity is computed, or outright stating that the OP will accept "the most original answer" or something like that. I don't remember any borderline cases for this close vote reason off the top of my head.
• Unclear what you're asking: this comes in a lot of varieties. As explained in the previous answer, I use this reason quite liberally if I can spot any holes or ambiguities in the specification. This includes edge cases that aren't covered by the challenge, ambiguous wordings that allow for several valid (but incompatible solutions) or completely missing parts of the specification.
• The last close reason to consider is too broad. When a challenge does have an objective winning criterion (which includes popularity contests by the current consensus), and it's clear what it's asking it can still be too broad. Popcons are quite often subject to that when they allow people to write any program whatsoever (as long as the source code has property X), or when they just pose some arbitrary programming problem and ask for "the most creative solution", etc. Since we do allow popcons, the line between too broad and not too broad is often very subjective, and I think this is the close reason I've used least often since becoming a mod. The community is usually quite good and sorting out what is and isn't too broad though.

1. In what way do you feel that being a moderator will make you more effective as opposed to simply reaching 10k or 20k rep? This has different implications for different candidates, as some have already reached the permissions thresholds. As a high rep, what do you look to gain with a diamond? As a low rep, why should you earn the tools this way rather than by earning reputation?

Well, having been a moderator for a year, I can say that there are quite a lot of tools available to us that I wouldn't have with my 20k privileges. Of course, a lot of the important parts of site moderation can be done with those tools as well. I'd still have a couple of duplicate hammers, could use the review queues and the 20k moderation tools. However, being a moderator allows me to deal with problem users, detect sock puppets and voting rings and get rid of spam accounts entirely. Luckily, we don't have to use those essential mod tools (that can't be handled by a larger number of regular users) very often in this community, but when we do, they're very important. Another thing that regular users can't really do at all is moderating chat. Yes, regular chat flags exist, but sometimes moderator action is necessary to clean up the mess from an ugly conversation (which luckily, are also rare in The Nineteenth Byte). Finally, and most importantly, moderators sort of act as ambassadors of the community towards the SE team, specifically the community managers. We bring up important feature requests and community-specific issues with them, and hence representing this community and its demands is something I couldn't do as effectively before I became a mod (and would love to continue being able to do).

1. How would you deal with a user who produced a steady stream of valuable answers, but tends to generate a large number of arguments/flags from comments?

This is of course a very unfortunate situation. While Game of Thrones often depicts rather questionable morals, I think I'll answer this with a quote from Stannis Baratheon:

A good act does not wash out the bad, nor a bad act the good. Each should have its own reward.

Even as a regular user I really try to separate content from user when deciding on how to vote, whether to close, reopen, delete, etc. That includes the user's past or other contributions. If a user who contributes a lot of valuable content is otherwise rude, I will remind them to be friendly, or if necessary talk to them in private, or even suspend them if I have to — just like anyone else. Likewise, if this does happen, I will (try really to) not let this affect how I treat their great content. I would continue upvoting or bountying or referencing it. But contributing great content doesn't allow them to make others feel unwelcome in the community.

In short, there is no privilege level for "You're exempt from the Be Nice policy".

1. How would you handle a situation where another mod closed/deleted/etc a question that you feel shouldn't have been?

This one is pretty simple: talk to them. In our current mod team, we have a great friendly, communicative culture. All of us chat about mod stuff on a daily basis, and we often discuss things before acting if action isn't urgent. If someone does act and I don't agree with it, I have no problem asking them about it, and so far we were always able to sort something out among the mod team. Occasionally, this is a sign of our communities policies not being entirely clear, which is a great opportunity to get the community involved via a meta post.

1. How will you help the site fit in with the SE network better? We are not a Q&A site! However, a most of the features built in to the site are designed for Q&A sites. Will you effectively be an ambassador for our site, and help us get site-specific customizations to fit our mission better? Or would you help the site narrow it's scope to fit that of a Q&A site better? Something else?

Well... I posted the linked question, so I hope the answer is obvious. :) I will definitely try to convince the SE team to get us as many of these customisations as feasible for them. I really hope that we'll have some of those things by the time PPCG gets its shiny new colours. For the things we don't get, I'm happy to continue figuring out workarounds with the community, like the leaderboards many challenge authors are using. Regarding scope, I've said in several places that I would rather see our scope broaden than narrow. That is to make use of the Q&A features by allowing more actual Q&A questions that fit into the sort of programming we do — there was a great non-challenge question recently that was unanimously well received despite fitting none of our current on-topic rules. I'm hoping that this could set a precedent for exploring some new territory in this area, and I will continue advocating this.

1. What would your average moderation schedule be like? When will you be active? What day(s)/time(s) would it be best for people to contact you in case of a need of a moderator? (This is of course an estimated schedule, and nobody will hold you accountable to it)

I live in UTC+1 (or UTC+2 during German DST, which started yesterday and ends at the end of October). I do not visit PPCG at work, but since I use other SE sites (and the Android App) I will get notifications and respond to them if they are urgent. Otherwise, I'm on PPCG (main, meta and chat) every evening and a lot on weekends (which seems complementary to how a lot of people use PPCG...).

1. What's your opinion on letting experienced users essentially re-write a challenge that has potential but is badly worded or specified? I've done this once or twice because rewriting is far easier for me than explaining what is wrong (possibly multiple times).

I feel like this is very similar to the first question. As I said there, in the absence of an explicit consensus on meta, I think the guiding principle should be the reject reasons for suggested edits in the review queue. If you literally re-write the challenge in that you change the rules, you're likely interfering with the author's intent, so I'd be opposed to that. However, improving grammar, clarity and the specification, or working in details that surfaced in comments, are great edits. Of course, the tricky cases are the borderline cases where the spec is simply incomplete and you edit in the missing parts. In those cases, it's may not be clear what the OP's intent was. I would personally say, go ahead with them but be friendly and forthcoming about it: leave a comment that you've edited in some suggestions to improve the spec and that the OP is free to undo or amend those changes if they dislike them. Make clear that you're not hijacking their challenge but that you're trying to help and show them the ropes. In the end, if rollback wars ensue, we'll have to judge this on a case by case basis, but if people roughly stick to the above guidelines, I'm sure those situations can be minimised and we can sort something out in the remaining cases.

1. A diamond will be attached to everything you say and have said in the past, including questions, answers and comments. Everything you will do will be seen under a different light. How do you feel about that?

This is somewhat unfortunate. I'd rather people vote on my posts (main or meta) based on their content and not the fact that they were posted by me or a moderator in general. In practice, I realise that this isn't always the case. And I remember an occasion or two where someone said in chat that they didn't post their own view on a meta poll, because it would compete with a moderator's view. However, I don't think that refraining from expressing my opinion can be a solution to this problem. What I will do is point out to people that moderators are just as fallible as anyone else, that our opinions aren't enforced rules, and that the community's views are just as valued, whenever it appears that the diamond's additional weight causes problems. In addition, I will never abuse or exploit that additional weight by letting my diamond argue for my opinion on meta. If I do weigh in on a meta discussion, I will always make a case for my opinion and hope that people will be convinced by that, and not the diamond. Similarly, I don't think a moderator's opinion is any better than a community member's. What counts is a good argument to convince the community. And my mod actions will always be guided by community consensus, regardless of whether I personally agree or disagree with it.

• What do you think if some user A goes to meta to publicly question something about the behaviour of user B and user B does not perceives that in a few days and nobody tells him about that? What if the A's post causes downvotes or closevotes on B's questions and answers without B figuring out why or having any chance to post a comment or answer for his defense until it is too late? Apr 1, 2016 at 17:57

Alex A.

1. A new-ish user posts a well-posed challenge that quickly gets many answers. An hour later, they edit in a restriction that invalidates most of the existing answers. An experienced user whose answer was invalidated comments that doing this is bad, and rolls back the edit. The poster insists on the change and re-adds it, and the two get into an edit war. Someone flags for moderator attention. What would you do in this situation as a moderator?

I would temporarily lock the post citing content dispute, which is one of the default lock reasons. I would then pull the OP and the editor into chat and explain to them both that this kind of back and forth is solving nothing and that we have to come to an agreement. I would inform the OP that what they've done that's causing the other user to repeatedly edit isn't how we usually do things, citing the necessary meta posts. I'd also tell the other user that if the OP is that determined not to incorporate that change, just let it go; it's not worth the effort. I'd keep the post locked until the two can come to an agreement. If the outcome is that the changes are not incorporated, I would leave a comment on the post telling other users not to similarly edit it in.

1. What is the threshold for using your mod-hammer vs. letting the community take care of issues? In other words, will you be mostly laissez-faire with posts and let the close/delete vote system sort out the good posts from the bad? Or will you personally decide that a post doesn't meet quality standards and mod-hammer it (note that this does not apply to obvious spam and the like).

I never act unilaterally unless I'm quite certain that the action I'd be taking is the right one for the situation. When appropriate, I don't hesitate to close challenges that obviously fall into one of our default close categories: no win condition, no spec (unclear), duplicate. Whenever I'm uncertain what should be done or whether something is off-topic, I let the community do its thing. I also don't moderate in a vacuum; I spend a lot of time in chat interacting both with the community and with the other site moderators. So when situations like this come up, I'll often discuss with folks in chat before taking any action.

1. One of the biggest difficulties for moderators and high-rep users is to distinguish certain posts from being in-scope or not. There are three critical elements of the PPCG.SE scope, namely the three close reasons: Too broad, opinion-based, and unclear what you're asking. What distinguishes a challenge as too broad or opinion-based? How clear does a challenge need to be to be in-scope? Can you specify your limits on these types of close reasons and your definition of each?

In my experience, "primarily opinion based" isn't used very often here. There are, however, situations in which it's appropriate, but in those cases "too broad" typically also applies. An example would be a popularity contest without an objective validity criterion, that is, one in which there's no objective way to determine whether any given answer is deserving of votes, up or down. That means that it's entirely up to the opinion of the viewer.

A question should be closed as "unclear what you're asking" when the spec is, well, unclear. Examples would be if certain aspects of the challenge contradict each other, if it's not clear what the input or output should be, etc.

A question should be closed as "too broad" when the challenge requires doing too many disparate, unrelated things, or when the range of what constitutes a valid answer is so broad that answers are not comparable.

1. In what way do you feel that being a moderator will make you more effective as opposed to simply reaching 10k or 20k rep? This has different implications for different candidates, as some have already reached the permissions thresholds. As a high rep, what do you look to gain with a diamond? As a low rep, why should you earn the tools this way rather than by earning reputation?

I've been a moderator since August of 2015 and I think I've been able to serve the community much better in this role than I could when I simply had trusted user privileges. I spend a lot of time on the site, so I'm available to take action swiftly when situations requiring such action arise, rather than raising a flag and hoping it'll be taken care of soon enough.

High-reputation users are given extended moderation privileges for a reason; they've been around the site and made contributions long enough to know how things work and what is and is not appropriate. Many of the privileges granted to site moderators are for when the tools available to other users aren't sufficient to deal with the situation, for example if a lock, suspension, etc. is in order.

1. How would you deal with a user who produced a steady stream of valuable answers, but tends to generate a large number of arguments/flags from comments?

Even with a valued user, bad behavior is bad behavior. It doesn't matter who's doing it.

I would contact the user via what's called a "mod message," a special email-like tool available for moderators to contact users privately regarding moderation issues. I would explain the situation, telling them that whatever they've been saying in the comments (with examples provided) is inappropriate. I'd keep an eye on their behavior following the message. If the situation improves, that's fantastic. If the behavior continues or worsens, a suspension may be in order.

1. How would you handle a situation where another mod closed/deleted/etc a question that you feel shouldn't have been?

As I mentioned before, I keep in close contact with the other site mods, so in situations like these, I just ping the one who took action and talk it out. Maybe there's something I hadn't noticed that makes a post deserving of closure, deletion, or whatever. Maybe whatever prompted the other mod to close/delete/whatever has been fixed and the action can be reversed. At least with the current mod team, if another mod has taken action, I can trust that they had good reason to do so.

1. How will you help the site fit in with the SE network better? We are not a Q&A site! However, a most of the features built in to the site are designed for Q&A sites. Will you effectively be an ambassador for our site, and help us get site-specific customizations to fit our mission better? Or would you help the site narrow it's scope to fit that of a Q&A site better? Something else?

I often communicate across the network, both with moderators on other Stack Exchange sites as well as SE developers and community managers, precisely to be an ambassador of sorts for PPCG. I've been in contact with employees regarding various issues, including site-specific customizations like challenge-oriented texts and increasing the reputation awarded for question upvotes.

At our core, we aren't a Q&A site. So why should we pretend to be one? Stack Exchange has given us an excellent home here, despite being a bit different than the other sites, and I think we should embrace the difference and make the site our own rather than attempting to narrow our scope into a Q&A site.

1. What would your average moderation schedule be like? When will you be active? What day(s)/time(s) would it be best for people to contact you in case of a need of a moderator? (This is of course an estimated schedule, and nobody will hold you accountable to it)

I'm on the site almost constantly, usually in chat as well. (I do sleep occasionally, though.) Typically I'm active from about 3-4 PM UTC to about 6-7 AM UTC. Even when I'm focused on other things, I have my sound on so I can respond to chat pings, and I check back onto the site frequently.

1. What's your opinion on letting experienced users essentially re-write a challenge that has potential but is badly worded or specified? I've done this once or twice because rewriting is far easier for me than explaining what is wrong (possibly multiple times).

I recommend obtaining clarifications in the comments as a first step so that the OP can make changes to the post in his or her own words. This is important because maybe what you thought they were trying to convey isn't quite right, so if you edit it into something else, it could upset the OP. I like to ensure that challenge authors have as much creative control over their posts as possible (provided they stay within our rules). If you do go ahead and edit the post, make sure you leave a brief comment summarizing what you changed and mention that the OP can roll back the edit if it isn't what they had in mind. Meanwhile, if the challenge is unclear and/or undergoing significant edits, it should be closed as unclear until things are sorted out.

1. A diamond will be attached to everything you say and have said in the past, including questions, answers and comments. Everything you will do will be seen under a different light. How do you feel about that?

It hasn't bothered me so far! I like to think that I'm a friendly face for PPCG and given how moderators are often seen differently than other users, I think having someone with my friendly demeanor, (I hope!) helpful comments, sense of humor, and desire to help gives a good first impression for new users of the kind of people who have been selected to help moderate the community.

• What do you think if some user A goes to meta to publicly question something about the behaviour of user B and user B does not perceives that in a few days and nobody tells him about that? What if the A's post causes downvotes or closevotes on B's questions and answers without B figuring out why or having any chance to post a comment or answer for his defense until it is too late? Apr 1, 2016 at 17:57

Dennis

1. A new-ish user posts a well-posed challenge that quickly gets many answers. An hour later, they edit in a restriction that invalidates most of the existing answers. An experienced user whose answer was invalidated comments that doing this is bad, and rolls back the edit. The poster insists on the change and re-adds it, and the two get into an edit war. Someone flags for moderator attention. What would you do in this situation as a moderator?

First of all, I would lock the question using the Content Dispute reason, cutting the edit war short.

If the edit by the author is completely over the top (e.g., turning a challenge about integer factorization into one about palindromes), I'd roll back to the latest revision before the radical change and ask the author to refrain from editing the post in this way.

In other cases, since current community consensus is that rule changes are allowed, I'd ask the editor to refrain from editing the challenge. In case I disagree that the edit improves the challenge, I'd also leave a comment suggesting that the author reconsider his decision and (if the edits make it sufficiently different) post a new challenge with the intended changes.

1. What is the threshold for using your mod-hammer vs. letting the community take care of issues? In other words, will you be mostly laissez-faire with posts and let the close/delete vote system sort out the good posts from the bad? Or will you personally decide that a post doesn't meet quality standards and mod-hammer it (note that this does not apply to obvious spam and the like).

If I'm at all uncertain whether the post should get closed or not, I don't use my mod hammer and give the community time to handle the post via democratic vote. Only if that fails, I'd contact the other moderators privately to get their input.

However, most challenges that should be closed have a fatal flaw. If such a flaw exists (blatantly off topic, no objective winning criterion, unclear spec, way too broad), I close the challenge immediately.

Having a challenge get deleted or radically changed after answer have already been posted (or while they're working on them) is a waste of time for everyone involved and a potential source of conflict (see question 1). In case where the question will have to get modified to remain open, closure should happen as soon as possible.

Finally, old posts that are no longer on topic usually require a mod hammer to get closed.

1. One of the biggest difficulties for moderators and high-rep users is to distinguish certain posts from being in-scope or not. There are three critical elements of the PPCG.SE scope, namely the three close reasons: Too broad, opinion-based, and unclear what you're asking. What distinguishes a challenge as too broad or opinion-based? How clear does a challenge need to be to be in-scope? Can you specify your limits on these types of close reasons and your definition of each?

Challenges (which are our most common kind of questions) cannot really be opinion-based. At most, they do not have objective validity or winning criteria, and the off topic close reason fits better in this case.

A challenge is too broad if it doesn't have a clear goal. This happens oftentimes in contests that ask participants to do whatever they want using X or solve task Y "creatively".

Finally, a challenge is unclear what you're asking if the spec isn't clear at all, or even if there are multiple ways to interpret a part of it. Objective validity and winning criteria are only meaningful if everybody understands them in the same way.

1. In what way do you feel that being a moderator will make you more effective as opposed to simply reaching 10k or 20k rep? This has different implications for different candidates, as some have already reached the permissions thresholds. As a high rep, what do you look to gain with a diamond? As a low rep, why should you earn the tools this way rather than by earning reputation?

I've already had the opportunity to familiarize myself with the moderator tools, and they make me much more valuable for the site.

We get a lot of requests for clarification on challenges and critique/suggestions on submissions that eventually become obsolete. This is one thing high rep user cannot handle on their own. While this usually isn't a high priority, it is (by volume) the most common task for moderators, since comment deletion is something the community cannot handle on its own.

Also, out definitive policy about answers not meeting the challenge specification, which I consider an important part of upholding the overall quality, usually requires the intervention of a moderator.

Other tasks, like moderating chat or contacting the team of community managers are also carried out by moderators.

Finally, in rare occasions, moderators are required to act as arbiter. This is perhaps the most important and certainly the most urgent task, so it requires somebody who is usually available (check) and is patient and fair, nice but firm. In the past months, I had the opportunity to prove to the community that I have well-suited for this task.

1. How would you deal with a user who produced a steady stream of valuable answers, but tends to generate a large number of arguments/flags from comments?

All moderators are encouraged to focus on the users' actions, not the users themselves. In no way does producing high quality content give anyone the right to be rude or abusive towards others.

As with anyone else, I'd contact the user privately first. If that doesn't help, I'd have no other choice but suspend the user.

Thankfully, PPCG's community is usually polite, and this is rarely ever a problem.

1. How would you handle a situation where another mod closed/deleted/etc a question that you feel shouldn't have been?

I would contact the other mod privately, In these cases, one of the involved usually missed something, so we could re-evaluate the question together and try to reach a consensus.

I've done this in the past, and we were always able to work things out. In case we can't, there's always the option to ping a third mod to join our discussion and act as tie breaker.

In practice, we oftentimes consult each other before taking a potentially controversial action.

1. How will you help the site fit in with the SE network better? We are not a Q&A site! However, a most of the features built in to the site are designed for Q&A sites. Will you effectively be an ambassador for our site, and help us get site-specific customizations to fit our mission better? Or would you help the site narrow it's scope to fit that of a Q&A site better? Something else?

Challenges are an integral part of our site. I don't think the can or should disappear, so whether non-challenge questions are considered on topic or not, we'll never be a true Q&A site.

That leaves editing the parts of the site I have access to to clarify the in what what it does act as a Q&A site and in what ways it does not, and acting as a liaison between the PPCG's community and SE's community managers.

1. What would your average moderation schedule be like? When will you be active? What day(s)/time(s) would it be best for people to contact you in case of a need of a moderator? (This is of course an estimated schedule, and nobody will hold you accountable to it)

I'm intermittently active from roughly 14:00 UTC to 06:00 UTC.

I have the Stack Exchange app on my phone and quick chat notifications enabled, so if you ping me between those hours, chances are I'll respond rather quickly.

1. What's your opinion on letting experienced users essentially re-write a challenge that has potential but is badly worded or specified? I've done this once or twice because rewriting is far easier for me than explaining what is wrong (possibly multiple times).

Rewriting a challenge to make to clearer without changing the intended meaning is always a good idea.

In all cases that would change the spec, I think it is preferable to talk to the author before making radical changes. Pointing the author to the sandbox is also usually a good idea, and challenges with severe but amendable problems can be re-posted there if needed.

Finally, while I consider challenges more of a gift to the community than the property of their authors, I think the authors explicit wishes should be respected, if at all possible. (see question 1)

1. A diamond will be attached to everything you say and have said in the past, including questions, answers and comments. Everything you will do will be seen under a different light. How do you feel about that?

I'm already used to that, and it doesn't bother me at all. While I have to get official on occasions, I sense that I'm still one of the guys.

While I still participate in meta discussions, in no case would I "use my diamond" to push a certain opinion.

• What do you think if some user A goes to meta to publicly question something about the behaviour of user B and user B does not perceives that in a few days and nobody tells him about that? What if the A's post causes downvotes or closevotes on B's questions and answers without B figuring out why or having any chance to post a comment or answer for his defense until it is too late? Apr 1, 2016 at 17:57
• I'm not sure if I understood your question correctly. Meta is not the place to talk about individual members of the community or their behavior. If somebody did something questionable, the post should be flagged appropriately, so the moderation team can deal with it. Apr 1, 2016 at 19:40
• Very nice, Dennis. But if A post something about that on meta anyway, what would you do (if anything at all)? I agree with you, but I already saw some instances of that in many SE sites. On the past I had received comments in my questions and answers like "please come on to participate in this topic [link-to-meta]". And I already posted some of those comments to other people in this situation. However many of those are entirely missed and may result in somebody being publicly flamed without any chance to properly defend him/herself. Apr 1, 2016 at 20:00
• I'm still not sure if I understand what you mean. A meta post about a specific user is off topic and should be closed as such. Discussing a particular post (e.g., Does question X fall within the scope of PPCG? or Does answer Y violate this standard loophole?) is perfectly acceptable. It is unfortunate if such a discussion takes place in the absence of the poster, but there's nothing the moderation team can (or should) do about it. Apr 1, 2016 at 20:55
• Well, simply posting a comment to one of B's posts (likely to be the one that was refered to in meta) would solve the issue and in fact nobody needs a diamond for that. Anyway there are cases where nobody does this simple action (possibly because everyone simply forgot or didn't care) and B start to think bad things about A or the community as a whole. Also, in some few specific cases (I won't give links) it looked like that A acted maliciously and didn't wanted that B noticed that. Anyway, I consider your answer to my comment satisfactory, thank you. Apr 1, 2016 at 23:53

Chris Jester-Young (non-competing)

1. A new-ish user posts a well-posed challenge that quickly gets many answers. An hour later, they edit in a restriction that invalidates most of the existing answers. An experienced user whose answer was invalidated comments that doing this is bad, and rolls back the edit. The poster insists on the change and re-adds it, and the two get into an edit war. Someone flags for moderator attention. What would you do in this situation as a moderator?

I would create a private chatroom and bring both the OP and the complainant into it, with the aim of reaching an acceptable middle ground.

In terms of my personal biases, I would side towards the idea of creating a new question with the added restriction (assuming that it actually adds value to the site); if the original question is not useful without the restriction (e.g., the restriction is there to block crazy trivial answers), I may additionally close the original question.

Either way, existing answers are not "compromised". People who posted answers on the original thread are welcome to cut and paste their answer to the new one, if still valid.

1. What is the threshold for using your mod-hammer vs. letting the community take care of issues? In other words, will you be mostly laissez-faire with posts and let the close/delete vote system sort out the good posts from the bad? Or will you personally decide that a post doesn't meet quality standards and mod-hammer it (note that this does not apply to obvious spam and the like).

I tend to be very hands-off, especially with comment flags; I'm of the camp that feels that comments are more useful than not. During my time as a moderator, I tended to reject comment flags unless the comment clearly has "passed its use-by date".

In borderline cases, I leave the flag untouched and let one of the other moderators decide what to do.

1. One of the biggest difficulties for moderators and high-rep users is to distinguish certain posts from being in-scope or not. There are three critical elements of the PPCG.SE scope, namely the three close reasons: Too broad, opinion-based, and unclear what you're asking. What distinguishes a challenge as too broad or opinion-based? How clear does a challenge need to be to be in-scope? Can you specify your limits on these types of close reasons and your definition of each?

Too broad: Each challenge should have a clear goal in what every entry should do. Some goals, of course, are more specific (e.g., Kolmogorov complexity) than others (e.g., King of the Hill), but in each case, the expectation of an entry's behaviour should be clear.

Opinion-based: Each challenge needs to be clear about what the winning criteria are, so that anyone who visits a challenge can optimise for those criteria, and know that it's not at the whim of the OP (nor, ideally, at the whim of the audience, but I've lost the no-popcon campaign a long time ago ;-)).

In-scope: A challenge needs to be solvable with code. Oh, and it needs to actually be a challenge, not a programming question. :-) A challenge is one where multiple answers are possible and likely not to all be the same as all other entries, and likely involves some degree of creativity to optimise, whether in making the code as short as possible (for golfs), as elegant as possible (for some kinds of popcons), as "survivalist" as possible (for King of the Hill), etc.

I would generally try to triage a post based on how salvageable it is in terms of coming into compliance with our challenge criteria, and suggest ways for the OP to improve the question if possible (with a friendly reminder that they should prefer to go through the Sandbox first). If it's really seriously off, I would close the question immediately.

1. In what way do you feel that being a moderator will make you more effective as opposed to simply reaching 10k or 20k rep? This has different implications for different candidates, as some have already reached the permissions thresholds. As a high rep, what do you look to gain with a diamond? As a low rep, why should you earn the tools this way rather than by earning reputation?

I find the user annotation system really helpful for getting context into a user's pattern of behaviour. It enables me to get clarification from the annotating moderator before I act, in some cases.

1. How would you deal with a user who produced a steady stream of valuable answers, but tends to generate a large number of arguments/flags from comments?

I would try to bring the flags and arguments to the attention of the user via a moderator message (and/or a private chat room, if more interactivity is needed). I'd try to figure out what the rationale behind the behaviour is, and try to find a way to accommodate those, if at all possible, in a way consistent with the community code of conduct.

If no agreement can be reached, I'd explain to the user that as much as I appreciate their contributions, I still expect their conduct to comply with our community rules (and I still expect to enforce them), and that if they can't abide by that, our community may not be the best for them to participate in.

1. How would you handle a situation where another mod closed/deleted/etc a question that you feel shouldn't have been?

I would message that mod directly in the mod-only chat room and ask them for their reasons, and try to put forth mine. I would also hope this would be an opportunity for the other mods to see the exchange and pipe in with their views so we can reach a consensus.

1. How will you help the site fit in with the SE network better? We are not a Q&A site! However, a most of the features built in to the site are designed for Q&A sites. Will you effectively be an ambassador for our site, and help us get site-specific customizations to fit our mission better? Or would you help the site narrow it's scope to fit that of a Q&A site better? Something else?

During my time as an employee of Stack Exchange, I have often floated customisations for PPCG to enable our community workflow to be better accommodated. For example, some of the customisations enabled during my time included SoundCloud support, MathJax support (later undone because it conflicted with too much existing entries), lowering the meta participation threshold to 1 so the Sandbox can be used by newcomers, etc.

I generally side towards making the platform work better for our community where feasible. I don't believe in trying to reshape our community into a Q&A community.

1. What would your average moderation schedule be like? When will you be active? What day(s)/time(s) would it be best for people to contact you in case of a need of a moderator? (This is of course an estimated schedule, and nobody will hold you accountable to it)

N/A since I've withdrawn my nomination, but were I to do it, I would section off an hour everyday, either early morning or late evening (US Eastern Time).

1. What's your opinion on letting experienced users essentially re-write a challenge that has potential but is badly worded or specified? I've done this once or twice because rewriting is far easier for me than explaining what is wrong (possibly multiple times).

Yes, I'm in support of this, because I believe that challenges are "public property" once posted. That is also in line with the broader Stack Exchange philosophy of questions and answers being editable by (most) users, with the expectation that they do it only in good faith, and without intent to drastically alter the intent of the post.

1. A diamond will be attached to everything you say and have said in the past, including questions, answers and comments. Everything you will do will be seen under a different light. How do you feel about that?

I'm obviously used to that, both back when I was an employee last year and as a pro tem for the 4 years before that.

I clearly prefix a post with "I'm posting this as a normal (albeit opinionated) user and not as a moderator/employee" when I have something opinionated to say that shouldn't been seen as rubberstamping.

Please feel free to request clarifications, or ask further questions, via comments! Even though I'm not running as a mod this time, I have a lot of things to say about moderatorship, having been in the game for so long. :-)

• +1 for noncompeting :P Mar 29, 2016 at 0:38
• In your answer to number 4, you mention the "user annotation system". I've never heard of this before, could you explain what it is? And thanks for taking the time to write this, I think this post has a lot of valuable information for the other moderator candidates, and the other voters :) Mar 29, 2016 at 13:22
• @FryAmTheEggman Most moderator-only tools are not talked about a lot in public, and this includes the annotation system. Basically it's a way for a moderator to make notes about a user, such as if they had an incident of voting fraud, abusive comments, etc. Then if a moderator sees another occurrence, they can match up with the annotation and see an ongoing pattern, and be able to act immediately this time. Mar 29, 2016 at 15:22
• @ChrisJester-Young So it's about fraud, etc, and not "wow this user is awesome" or "I guess he works at XX company" things? Mar 31, 2016 at 14:24
• @jimmy23013 Moderators are expressly asked to keep user annotations focused on moderation-related matters, because otherwise they just get spammy, irrelevant, and eventually useless. Mar 31, 2016 at 14:27
• What do you think if some user A goes to meta to publicly question something about the behaviour of user B and user B does not perceives that in a few days and nobody tells him about that? What if the A's post causes downvotes or closevotes on B's questions and answers without B figuring out why or having any chance to post a comment or answer for his defense until it is too late? Apr 1, 2016 at 17:58
• @VictorStafusa At Stack Exchange, we encourage people to vote based on content, not on the person posting the content. So people should not be targeting user B's posts. In fact, the system checks for "serial voting" to detect cases where a user's posts are being targeted (whether positively or negatively) and automatically reverses egregious instances of targeted voting. Apr 1, 2016 at 18:19
• By "we" I mean the SE community; I realise that as an ex-employee of SE it's possible for people to misread that last comment. :-P I am, of course, in no way attempting to speak for the company. Apr 1, 2016 at 18:19
• @ChrisJester-Young You did not understood what I am telling you. The voting effects is just a minor part of the problem. What is important is the fact that people will be publicly discussing B's behaviour without B knowing that in order to post something for his/her own defense. What is your stance about this? What would you do in this case (if anything at all)? Apr 1, 2016 at 19:22

Doorknob

1. A new-ish user posts a well-posed challenge that quickly gets many answers. An hour later, they edit in a restriction that invalidates most of the existing answers. An experienced user whose answer was invalidated comments that doing this is bad, and rolls back the edit. The poster insists on the change and re-adds it, and the two get into an edit war. Someone flags for moderator attention. What would you do in this situation as a moderator?

This is a tricky one right off the bat. My personal opinion (which I've only really expressed in the mod chatroom and which I've been meaning to bring up on meta) is that the community should be able to (and should) outweigh the poster of the challenge on certain issues. Clearly if the OP self-vandalizes the question, the community has this right—but how far does this go?

That being said—I'm getting off topic. As a moderator, I can't enforce a policy that we don't have. My immediate reaction to a back-and-forth of more than a few rollbacks would be to lock the post while a consensus is being reached; since this disables commenting, I would also create an accompanying meta post (or perhaps chatroom) to allow the community as a whole to discuss what should be done (it's really quite unfortunate that we don't have a real policy documented on meta, which I've been intending to fix). I would likely not participate considerably in these discussions, only because of my involvement in the issue and due to my... perhaps unorthodox personal opinions. As a moderator, it's important to know the difference between when to take leadership and when to defer to others.

This is somewhat context-sensitive, though. If either of the two edit... warrers?... are trying to make a change that is flat-out ridiculous or repeatedly try to change the post such that it breaks site rules (such as having an objective winning criterion) after having this explained to them, that's grounds for a stern comment, mod message, or suspension, in increasing order of severity. (This is network-wide policy, so there's a precedent for enforcing it here.)

2. What is the threshold for using your mod-hammer vs. letting the community take care of issues? In other words, will you be mostly laissez-faire with posts and let the close/delete vote system sort out the good posts from the bad? Or will you personally decide that a post doesn't meet quality standards and mod-hammer it (note that this does not apply to obvious spam and the like).

With regard to clear-cut issues (general programming questions, missing objective winning criterion, etc.) and issues that are subjective but are supported by community consensus or policy (too-broad popcons, answers that aren't serious contenders, standard loopholes, etc.), I'm not afraid to expedite the process and whack it with Mjollnir. (I'm pretty proud of that 11-second close :P)

In terms of the greyer areas, I have generally held a policy of neutrality and nonintervention. Before taking any unilateral action when it is unclear whether I should do so, I always ask myself whether a.) I would be prepared to defend my decision on meta and b.) my decision does not override community consensus. Unilateral action against the community's will is never a good thing and should be avoided at all costs.

I almost always leave an explanatory comment when taking any mod action on a post (except on obvious spam and the like).

3. One of the biggest difficulties for moderators and high-rep users is to distinguish certain posts from being in-scope or not. There are three critical elements of the PPCG.SE scope, namely the three close reasons: Too broad, opinion-based, and unclear what you're asking. What distinguishes a challenge as too broad or opinion-based? How clear does a challenge need to be to be in-scope? Can you specify your limits on these types of close reasons and your definition of each?

This is a question for the community, not for the moderators; scope is defined by consensus, not the thoughts of a few specific people. The Stack Exchange network is, first and foremost, run by the community, and my voice should count just as much as yours and anyone else's.

As far as actual moderation on posts goes, I'm generally pretty cautious with the mod hammer (cf. question 2). Addressing the question specifically, too broad, for me, is anything that doesn't specify a clear and unambiguous task ("draw an avodado [code-golf]" (with no other specs), "most creative wins [popularity-contest]," etc.), opinion-based is... well, mostly covered already by off-topic and too broad, and unclear is anything that defines a task but does so with an incomplete spec, where something is missing.

Again, especially when unilaterally closing questions, I will always leave a detailed explanatory comment and carefully explain how the challenge can be fixed (if it can be).

4. In what way do you feel that being a moderator will make you more effective as opposed to simply reaching 10k or 20k rep? This has different implications for different candidates, as some have already reached the permissions thresholds. As a high rep, what do you look to gain with a diamond? As a low rep, why should you earn the tools this way rather than by earning reputation?

Moderators are "human exception handlers," in the words of countless meta and blog posts. As a moderator, I have the tooling and authority necessary to deal with exceptional situations, anything from minor squabbles in chat to voting rings. While a high-reputation user commands part of that tooling and authority, having a diamond helps me step up and provide guidance and leadership to the community, when (and only when) it is necessary.

Additionally, moderators serve as "janitors." I've been quietly working in the background since I was elected two years ago, having accumlated over 1,400 flags handled in that time period. Consistency is also something that I bring to the table, both in volume of flags handled and the responsible and careful manner in which I handle them. (And, of course, it's nice to be able to nuke obvious spam/off-topic questions without waiting for 4 other people.)

5. How would you deal with a user who produced a steady stream of valuable answers, but tends to generate a large number of arguments/flags from comments?

I moderate based on actions and behavior, not usernames. Take that as a personal promise—the manner in which I moderate will never be influenced by the user in question.

If the user is unresponsive to mod messages, etc., a suspension would be in order, just like it would with any other user.

6. How would you handle a situation where another mod closed/deleted/etc a question that you feel shouldn't have been?

The main reason that this is a relatively rare situation is because the communication among the current mod team is excellent—the PPCG mod chatroom is very active, and we tend to confer among ourselves before making any potentially contentious decisions.

Nevertheless, disagreements are possible and have occurred. However, we have always come to a satisfying agreement after consideration in chat, and an important moderator quality is the ability to easily and civilly make compromises. I have and will readily admit my mistakes, defer to others, and respect their (differing) opinions.

7. How will you help the site fit in with the SE network better? We are not a Q&A site! However, a most of the features built in to the site are designed for Q&A sites. Will you effectively be an ambassador for our site, and help us get site-specific customizations to fit our mission better? Or would you help the site narrow it's scope to fit that of a Q&A site better? Something else?

I'll address the latter question first. In the past, I've strongly pushed for non-challenge questions, and I'd been one of the most vocal proponents. Over a year later, though, it's clear that trying to promote this type of question is simply not sensible in practice, and my stance has slackened accordingly. In essence:

• The currently established scope will not be restricted or narrowed. It's clear that that's what the community wants, and PPCG doesn't make sense as a Q&A site.

• While the acceptance of non-challenge questions has varied, one thing has remained constant: real challenges have always been and will always be the vast majority of "questions," and attempting to confine this to the standard SE Q&A format clearly does not make sense.

Defining the scope of a site is (usually) the job of the community, not the moderators. However, as for the former question, liaisoning with the community team at SE is one of the roles of the moderator team. And yes, I have done so in the past and will willingly do so if necessary in the future.

8. What would your average moderation schedule be like? When will you be active? What day(s)/time(s) would it be best for people to contact you in case of a need of a moderator? (This is of course an estimated schedule, and nobody will hold you accountable to it)

My chat activity graph is a fairly accurate indicator of when I'm usually active (note that times are in UTC):

My timezone is CST (UTC-06:00, UTC-05:00 during DST), and I visit... pretty much every day (I'm apparently on 227 consecutive days right now, which is new information to me; I guess I missed a day a while back).

I sporadically check on the flag queue throughout the day (although Alex always seems to be faster), and notifications go to my phone, so I'll see pings really any time during the day.

9. What's your opinion on letting experienced users essentially re-write a challenge that has potential but is badly worded or specified? I've done this once or twice because rewriting is far easier for me than explaining what is wrong (possibly multiple times).

My personal opinion? This is comparable to the first question in that it's a question of whether the community should be able to override the original poster of a challenge. Accordingly, my own view is similar: yes, to a certain extent, experienced users should be able to overhaul a new user's challenge. (The problem then becomes: to what extent? That's a discussion for meta.)

From a moderation point of view? If the original author is okay with it, go for it—the CC licensing and Wikipedia-like model of SE sites means it's perfectly okay to edit others' posts. (Personal advice: always drop a comment first to make sure that the challenge author consents.) If an edit war or similar ends up ensuing, I would handle the situation similarly to the way in which I described it in question 1. Otherwise, the challenge can be improved, and everyone benefits.

10. A diamond will be attached to everything you say and have said in the past, including questions, answers and comments. Everything you will do will be seen under a different light. How do you feel about that?

I've had that diamond for almost two years, so I've already been operating under that assumption. While it is occasionally the job of a moderator to take charge and step up as a leader, it is frequently preferable to act as a regular member of the community, and in terms of policy discussions, there are very few occasions in which I would act as a moderator rather than discuss as a normal user. However, I am comfortable with the diamond attached to everything I do, and I make sure to clarify that I'm speaking as a regular user when necessary.

• What do you think if some user A goes to meta to publicly question something about the behaviour of user B and user B does not perceives that in a few days and nobody tells him about that? What if the A's post causes downvotes or closevotes on B's questions and answers without B figuring out why or having any chance to post a comment or answer for his defense until it is too late? Apr 1, 2016 at 17:56

Digital Trauma

1. A new-ish user posts a well-posed challenge that quickly gets many answers. An hour later, they edit in a restriction that invalidates most of the existing answers. An experienced user whose answer was invalidated comments that doing this is bad, and rolls back the edit. The poster insists on the change and re-adds it, and the two get into an edit war. Someone flags for moderator attention. What would you do in this situation as a moderator?

If an edit war is already underway, then I the chances are that some other users will have noticed and likely downvoted/closevoted the question - in my experience, this community tends to be pretty responsive in this sort of situation.

Regardless, I would try to get hold of the new user on chat, welcome them to the site, thank them for their contribution and then try to clearly explain why invalidating edits are so unpopular, perhaps using analogies such as moving the goal posts. I would explain that the site works on a community model and that policies such as this are typically decided by consensus on meta. In this particular case I would point to this post to show the clear community consensus and that the community tends to reward going against clear consensus with downvotes/closevotes. I would then explain the options open to the user, along with likely outcomes:

• back down - accept the edit rollback, and make this clear to interested parties. Likely outcome is that downvotes/closevotes will reduce
• stick to your guns - This will likely result in more downvotes and closure of the question, along with a loss of goodwill towards the new user
• self-close the question - In this case I would warn the user against attempt to reopen or create a new challenge in the same mold.

If I was unable to discus the above in a timely manner with the user, I would likely put the question on hold with a comment summarising the above.

1. What is the threshold for using your mod-hammer vs. letting the community take care of issues? In other words, will you be mostly laissez-faire with posts and let the close/delete vote system sort out the good posts from the bad? Or will you personally decide that a post doesn't meet quality standards and mod-hammer it (note that this does not apply to obvious spam and the like).

As as high-rep user with the dupe-hammer this is a generalization of something I've already run into on several occasions. I even created a meta-post about it.

I've found that since gaining this privilege I have backed off using my hammer somewhat. In particular sometimes it is very clear that a question should be hammered. I will hammer those immediately. In other cases I will:

• add a comment indicating the particular problem with a question - be it dupe, unclear, or whatever.
• If I feel that the question probably should be hammered but see that there may be points where other users disagree, I'll wait out the first few close-votes and then hammer the 4th or 5th vote. This gives the will of the community a chance to be heard.
1. One of the biggest difficulties for moderators and high-rep users is to distinguish certain posts from being in-scope or not. There are three critical elements of the PPCG.SE scope, namely the three close reasons: Too broad, opinion-based, and unclear what you're asking. What distinguishes a challenge as too broad or opinion-based? How clear does a challenge need to be to be in-scope? Can you specify your limits on these types of close reasons and your definition of each?
• Opinion-based - I don't think we get many of these on PPCG, especially for challenges. However this can possibly be used for challenges if the challenge is asking scoring to based on subjective evaluation of a generated image or audio file, for example.

• unclear - This is used for challenges which have specific rules or details poorly defined, but the overall task is generally understandable from a high level.

• Too broad - This is used for challenges that are poorly defined from a high-level point of view, and could generate a large number of potentially valid answers.

1. In what way do you feel that being a moderator will make you more effective as opposed to simply reaching 10k or 20k rep? This has different implications for different candidates, as some have already reached the permissions thresholds. As a high rep, what do you look to gain with a diamond? As a low rep, why should you earn the tools this way rather than by earning reputation?

I've had >20k rep for 6 months now and I'm already familiar with the tools available at this level. I want to continue to see this site thrive and am invested in helping with that. I think site-quality is one of the best indicators of the site's ability to thrive. For me a lot of quality issues are well taken care of by the community as a whole, but there are details that only mods can take care of. One such area that I have become interested in is the clean-up of comments. Most likely the current mods can attest that I am a keen flagger of obsolete comments. As a mod I would be able to unilaterally take care of this sort of detail without going through all the flagging in cases where comments are clearly obsolete - e.g. it is a suggestion that has been incorporated into a post (with attribution to the commenter) (meta post). This is generally how I flag such comments today, and as far as I'm aware I think most, if not all such flags have been acted upon by current mods.

1. How would you deal with a user who produced a steady stream of valuable answers, but tends to generate a large number of arguments/flags from comments?

I would encourage the user to become active on meta. Most of these sorts of arguments arise from differing interpretations of community-accepted consensus, which is generally figured out on meta. I would possibly also remind the user that all of us are here in our spare time and most, if not all of us are here for some form of fun/recreation, and that it's in all of our best interests to ensure fair participation in challenges, otherwise users stop enjoying the site.

1. How would you handle a situation where another mod closed/deleted/etc a question that you feel shouldn't have been?

We all have differences of opinion from time to time - this is a good reason for multiple moderators (as well as spreading workload). I think the answer probably depends on community response. If it is clear from comments, etc that the mod action is in-line with the community, then I'd probably let it be and examine my own attitude to the given mod action. However if there were a lot of disagreement around the matter, I would contact the mod to:

• understand their point of view
• explain my point of view
• attempt to reach a mutually agreeable compromise or solution
1. How will you help the site fit in with the SE network better? We are not a Q&A site! However, a most of the features built in to the site are designed for Q&A sites. Will you effectively be an ambassador for our site, and help us get site-specific customizations to fit our mission better? Or would you help the site narrow it's scope to fit that of a Q&A site better? Something else?

I think in general this community has done a good job of fitting this square peg into a round hole. In particular, the sandbox continues to be a valuable part of the site. I understand not all users like to use the sandbox (I'm a reluctant user myself), but I think encouragement of its use should definitely be continued, especially for new users who are struggling with writing acceptable challenges.

1. What would your average moderation schedule be like? When will you be active? What day(s)/time(s) would it be best for people to contact you in case of a need of a moderator? (This is of course an estimated schedule, and nobody will hold you accountable to it)

I'm in California, and I tend to check my phone or laptop from the moment I get up to just before I go to bed (yes, I'm addicted). There is almost always at least one PPCG tab open in my browser. So 7:30am PST to 10:30pm PST or thereabouts.

1. What's your opinion on letting experienced users essentially re-write a challenge that has potential but is badly worded or specified? I've done this once or twice because rewriting is far easier for me than explaining what is wrong (possibly multiple times).

I think this is mostly OK. I would always check first with the OP if they are OK with it though, and ask them to review the changes.

1. A diamond will be attached to everything you say and have said in the past, including questions, answers and comments. Everything you will do will be seen under a different light. How do you feel about that?

Good. I have always strived to conduct my transactions on this site with fairness, politeness and professionalism. I also have a lot of fun on this site and hope others do to.

• What do you think if some user A goes to meta to publicly question something about the behaviour of user B and user B does not perceives that in a few days and nobody tells him about that? What if the A's post causes downvotes or closevotes on B's questions and answers without B figuring out why or having any chance to post a comment or answer for his defense until it is too late? Apr 1, 2016 at 17:57
• @VictorStafusa I hope that the community will vote based on the merits of the post, and in general this is what I have experienced. However, it is also true that number of votes on a given post could be multiplied if the post itself is discussed on meta (less so if it is the user discussed on meta, though I think that is very unusual). If it is obvious that this discussion is going on, but that the user is unaware (again, seems highly unusual), then I would simply add a comment to bring it to the user's attention, and I think other users would do the same; no mod privilege required. Apr 1, 2016 at 23:37
• That was a very good answer to my comment and I fully agree with you. Unfortunately, from what I observed in many SE sites, not everybody seems to have the same opinion as yours. Apr 1, 2016 at 23:43

PhiNotPi

The first thing I would like to say is that, I'm super open to discussion about this, so if you want to talk about my answers, please don't hesitate to ping me in chat. I should respond if I'm not sleeping.

1. A new-ish user posts a well-posed challenge that quickly gets many answers. An hour later, they edit in a restriction that invalidates most of the existing answers. An experienced user whose answer was invalidated comments that doing this is bad, and rolls back the edit. The poster insists on the change and re-adds it, and the two get into an edit war. Someone flags for moderator attention. What would you do in this situation as a moderator?

This... is actually a really good question. As in, shout-out to @xnor for suggesting this.

There's two big cases that come to mind in which this situation might arise. The most realistic case is probably that some math trick / shortcut / builtin made the challenge much easier than the OP anticipated. A second realistic example would be the OP being surprised by golfing languages and deciding he didn't want them (a rule change that's potentially contrary to site policy).

The first thing I should probably do is lock the post due to the edit war, using the special-purpose locking reason. This is probably the most "time-critical" step.

The next thing I would want to do is ask the other mod's opinions, since this is something that I would really want to discuss with the other mods before acting on. Of course, if another mod comes up with a better course of action, then I will go with that and learn from him.

The next step is to find precedent. The meta.CG.SE question When should rule changes count is probably the best, and then other sources like mother-meta's appropriate action when a high-rep user makes a poor edit or what is the etiquette for modifying posts (although I do find those two to be less relevant to CG.SE). The importance of precedent is something I mention more in my next answer.

Okay, so let's say that the mods are discussing a solution (or everyone else is on vacation / not at hand), and it's my turn to come up with an answer. I would try to foster communication between the editor and the OP. It's probably a good idea to move their comments to a chat room, and try to have a discussion with them there.

One thing I would point out to both users was that an edit war was not a proper course of action, and that the proper (as far as I am aware) course of action was to flag for moderator attention as soon as they felt an edit dispute arising. I would attempt to prevent "pinning all the blame" on either person.

I would also explain to the OP the reasoning against changing their spec in a way that invalidates answers (like devaluing the current answerer's time/effort), but also say that they are free to change the spec if they believe it's a beneficial change. If the OP's rule change actually goes contrary to a community consensus (like these), then I will explain why the OP shouldn't change the rules, and that this might lead to their question being put on hold.

In regards to the editor, I would also explain the the editor how the OP is allowed to change the spec, even though I recognize that the edit can make it feel like the editor wasted his time on the answer.

Then, I'll try to ask the pair of users to come to a reasonable conclusion, which I hope will be one which minimizes the amount of invalidation, but which also satisfies the desire of the OP to improve his challenge. I might also offer some other suggestions of my own, like making a second challenge (if the rule changes were substantial enough).

In the end, I think the OP should usually have the final say. If the OP and editor fail to come to a peaceful agreement, and the OP's new spec is within site rules, then I believe the OP's edit should stick (even if it attracts downvotes).

If the OP's new spec clearly violates a site rule (it is obviously close-worthy), then I'm not sure whether we should let the OP change the spec and get closed, or ignore the OP's intentions to keep it open. I would have to consult with the other mods/the community about this.

2. What is the threshold for using your mod-hammer vs. letting the community take care of issues? In other words, will you be mostly laissez-faire with posts and let the close/delete vote system sort out the good posts from the bad? Or will you personally decide that a post doesn't meet quality standards and mod-hammer it (note that this does not apply to obvious spam and the like).

Maybe here is a good place to state my belief in "the rule of law" with respect to moderation. Close/delete-votes are generally a way to achieve community consensus about which posts are good/bad and which posts we want/don't want on the site. The important part being the community consensus. I believe it would be my job as a moderator to use my hammer in accordance to the consensus, and that alone, since a unilateral decision will prevent democracy. I would be willing to cast one of the last close votes, I would be willing to close a question in clear violation of a meta consensus or official SE policy, I would be willing to close a question in consensus with other mods, but I believe that closing a question without any of those things is a violation of the rule of law.

3. One of the biggest difficulties for moderators and high-rep users is to distinguish certain posts from being in-scope or not. There are three critical elements of the PPCG.SE scope, namely the three close reasons: Too broad, opinion-based, and unclear what you're asking. What distinguishes a challenge as too broad or opinion-based? How clear does a challenge need to be to be in-scope? Can you specify your limits on these types of close reasons and your definition of each?

This is a case where I think existing precedent/meta-consensus would be most important factor in a mod's decision. Here's my personal rough estimates for what the three reasons mean:

Unclear what you're asking - This is probably the most common and appropriate of the three options. I would say this applies to questions in which there is uncertainty as to what counts as a valid answer (such as unclear restrictions, or unclear task, or unclear winning criterion). This is generally used either when the author's intent exists but is unclear, or if his intent isn't complete (it fails to address some detail, like special-cases). I think the difference between unclear and the other two is pretty simple: unclear is when the challenge is bad because we don't know what you mean, the other two are when we know exactly what you mean, but the challenge is still bad.

Too broad - I think this would generally be used when we know what the challenge author intends, but the challenge leaves room for too much variety/"freedom" in answering. If two programs are both valid, but do two totally separate things, then it's probably too broad. If the objective winning criterion can't distinguish answers, then it is probably too broad.

Primarily opinion-based - This isn't used very often, as far as I can tell (I don't know the statistics). If we were to use this reason, it would probably be in the case of "art-contests," which are typically pop-cons without an appropriate amount of direction for the voters to know what they should be voting for. Art-contests, though, are also off topic or too broad, so they would constitute an unnecessarily niche purpose for this close reason.

4. In what way do you feel that being a moderator will make you more effective as opposed to simply reaching 10k or 20k rep? This has different implications for different candidates, as some have already reached the permissions thresholds. As a high rep, what do you look to gain with a diamond? As a low rep, why should you earn the tools this way rather than by earning reputation?

As a moderator, I will be able do a couple extra things, like moving/removing comments, having increase communication with the SE team, resolving disputes between users, sometimes even suspending people. It's really a testament to the SE system how little mods do as a percentage of overall moderation, but there are some things that simply require a moderator to perform. As a moderator, I believe I will perform these jobs in a rational, level-headed manner, that I will be willing to contemplate alternative viewpoints, and that I will maintain high standard of excellence in everything that I do. So, what do I want out of a diamond? The same thing every voter wants in this election: a website with a great moderation team.

5. How would you deal with a user who produced a steady stream of valuable answers, but tends to generate a large number of arguments/flags from comments?

If the user's tendency to create arguments is severe enough to warrant a suspension or other disciplinary action (I'm not completely certain where this threshold is), then we should judge the user irrespective of his answer quality. It's about holding everyone to the same basic expectations, and not letting people have free-passes on detrimental behavior because of their experience/rep/popularity. Relevant story: at Fluther.com, a site where I also do some moderation, we once banned the highest-scoring user on the whole site because of sock-puppeting/voting-fraud.

6. How would you handle a situation where another mod closed/deleted/etc a question that you feel shouldn't have been?

I think the answer is pretty straight-forward: discuss it with the mod in question, and preferably other mods at the same time as well. This discussion will preferably occur in private. From my previous modding experience, I think it's important that the mod team attempt to maintain a "uniform appearance" when it comes to actions, which also means trying not to unilaterally undercut another mod's activity. To look at this objectively, 1 mod wants it closed, and 1 mod (me) wants it open. The best way to resolve this is a discussion (preferably with additional voices) before taking additional actions. I think this question is heavily tied to #2.

7. How will you help the site fit in with the SE network better? We are not a Q&A site! However, a most of the features built in to the site are designed for Q&A sites. Will you effectively be an ambassador for our site, and help us get site-specific to fit our mission better? Or would you help the site narrow it's scope to fit that of a Q&A site better? Something else?

I've always been a fan of site-specific customizations, and I believe that they can have a pretty big effect on the site (not just in the areas of convenience/usability, but also to improve "new user experience" and moderation). I personally do want to push for some of the changes in the linked meta question, and feel that a moderation position will really enable me to work towards those goals.

I certainly don't think we need to make any efforts to "narrow scope" to comply with the existing technology. We are humans, the SE platform is a machine, we must bend it to our will! (To clarify, I'm not against the inclusion of Q&A-style questions, just that narrowing scope is unnecessary).

8. What would your average moderation schedule be like? When will you be active? What day(s)/time(s) would it be best for people to contact you in case of a need of a moderator? (This is of course an estimated schedule, and nobody will hold you accountable to it)

I'm in Eastern Time. If you want to get a good idea of what hours I'd typically be available, check out the graph on my chat profile. I have CG.SE notifications routed to my phone's unlock screen, so I'm "contactable" anytime I'm not literally sleeping.

9. What's your opinion on letting experienced users essentially re-write a challenge that has potential but is badly worded or specified? I've done this once or twice because rewriting is far easier for me than explaining what is wrong (possibly multiple times).

My opinion on this can vary depending on what exactly the edits are, so this answer is somewhat "general." If I ever make a substantial edit, I would leave a comment explaining why I made my edit. Mentioning the sandbox is also a good idea.

Let's say that the edit improves the clarity/organisation of the challenge, but doesn't change the underlying intentions of the spec, then I think that's okay. Examples might include fixing grammar/English. A second good example could be, if a user comments asking what the winning criterion is, and the OP answers in a comment, then its acceptable to edit the challenge to reflect the OP's response. A third example could be fixing one of the things to avoid when writing challenges.

I would generally avoid making edits that affect the underlying meaning/spec of the challenges. In cases like these, I think, if a user decides to make an edit, then they should generally change as little of the spec as possible to bring it within the scope of the site. They should also leave a comment explaining their reasoning for the edit. If the OP is (possibly retroactively) okay with the edit, then that's also great. If the OP isn't okay with the edit, then this question could start to turn into something like question #1. I think the OP's desire generally wins.

If an edit clearly goes against the OP's intentions for the spec (as opposed to clarifying / changing the spec), then that would be an edit I would advise against making without prior discussion/approval with the OP.

Finally, perhaps one guiding principle is that, if it's an edit the OP should try to avoid making (like invalidating existing answers), then it's an edit another user shouldn't do.

10. A diamond will be attached to everything you say and have said in the past, including questions, answers and comments. Everything you will do will be seen under a different light. How do you feel about that?

Ultimately, I will feel the same. There are two types of regret: the regret you feel when something doesn't work out the way you had thought, and the regret you feel the instant after having done something you knew was wrong. The second kind, of course, is the kind to be avoided. I don't believe I've ever done anything on PPCG that has caused the second kind of regret, and don't intend on ever doing anything like that. Long story short: Everything I ever do reflects upon my person, and a diamond doesn't change that.

• What do you think if some user A goes to meta to publicly question something about the behaviour of user B and user B does not perceives that in a few days and nobody tells him about that? What if the A's post causes downvotes or closevotes on B's questions and answers without B figuring out why or having any chance to post a comment or answer for his defense until it is too late? Apr 1, 2016 at 17:56

Mego

1. A new-ish user posts a well-posed challenge that quickly gets many answers. An hour later, they edit in a restriction that invalidates most of the existing answers. An experienced user whose answer was invalidated comments that doing this is bad, and rolls back the edit. The poster insists on the change and re-adds it, and the two get into an edit war. Someone flags for moderator attention. What would you do in this situation as a moderator?

There is an important consideration here: does the edit improve the quality of the challenge enough that it's worth invalidating answers? Closing a loophole that allows the challenge to be trivially solved is (usually) good. Disallowing the use of a language or set of languages is (usually) bad.

With that in mind, I'd lock the question to prevent further edits until the situation can be resolved. I would then create a chat room for the OP and the editor, explain and link to relevant site policies, and moderate a discussion between them so that they can reach an understanding. Once everything has been cleared up, I'd edit the question in the appropriate way (either keeping or discarding the contentious edit), and unlock it.

1. What is the threshold for using your mod-hammer vs. letting the community take care of issues? In other words, will you be mostly laissez-faire with posts and let the close/delete vote system sort out the good posts from the bad? Or will you personally decide that a post doesn't meet quality standards and mod-hammer it (note that this does not apply to obvious spam and the like).

Mod-hammers are tools that are not to be used lightly. I believe the same goes for close/delete votes of normal users, and I use that philosophy now. I don't vote to close or delete something unless I am absolutely sure that I am making the correct decision. When there is uncertainty, I bring it up in chat and/or on meta, so that I can form my decision with the aid of the community. If I were elected as a moderator, essentially nothing would change. If anything, I'd use the hammers even less frequently than I use close and delete votes - only in cut-and-dry situations, letting the community handle the other situations.

1. One of the biggest difficulties for moderators and high-rep users is to distinguish certain posts from being in-scope or not. There are three critical elements of the PPCG.SE scope, namely the three close reasons: Too broad, opinion-based, and unclear what you're asking. What distinguishes a challenge as too broad or opinion-based? How clear does a challenge need to be to be in-scope? Can you specify your limits on these types of close reasons and your definition of each?
• Too broad: A challenge which does not give a requirement for what a valid solution looks like (such as popularity contests with no objective validity criterion).

• Opinion-based: A challenge where a major part (such as the winning criterion) is subjective (such as "the winning answer will be the one I like best"). There is quite a bit of overlap with the "no objective winning criterion" off-topic close reason, and that one tends to be applied more often.

• Unclear what you are asking: A challenge where there is not exactly one valid interpretation of the goal and restrictions. This can mean either a challenge where there is no valid interpretation (due to conflicting rules/goals), or where there are multiple valid interpretations (due to underspecification).

In order for a challenge to be in-scope, it needs a clear and objective winning criterion, a clear and objective validity criterion, and to not break any of the PPCG or SE policies.

1. In what way do you feel that being a moderator will make you more effective as opposed to simply reaching 10k or 20k rep? This has different implications for different candidates, as some have already reached the permissions thresholds. As a high rep, what do you look to gain with a diamond? As a low rep, why should you earn the tools this way rather than by earning reputation?

Reputation is great. Privileges are nice. But, the moderation privileges given to high-rep users aren't sufficient to solve every problem that arises. Being a moderator means being able to privately communicate with users to correct unacceptable behavior, do large-scale tag cleanups, deal with users who try to abuse the SE system via voting rings, sockpuppetry, and the like, and many other things that non-mods cannot do. I love this site, and I love this community. I want to help and contribute as much as possible, and being elected as a moderator will enable me to contribute to and improve PPCG even more.

1. How would you deal with a user who produced a steady stream of valuable answers, but tends to generate a large number of arguments/flags from comments?

I would privately contact the user and explain the situation: if they continue to break the Be Nice policy, they will be subject to disciplinary action such as suspension or banning, regardless of how much high-quality content they have contributed.

It's important to separate the content from the user in cases like these. One must look objectively at the content and act appropriately, regardless of the user's history (unless their history would indicate that escalation of discipline is necessary).

1. How would you handle a situation where another mod closed/deleted/etc a question that you feel shouldn't have been?

I would privately communicate with the other mod to understand their reasoning and come to a consensus together. It's entirely possible that one of us was missing details that the other had noticed, that influenced the action taken. Once an understanding has been reached, action would be taken to correct the situation, if necessary.

I specifically said private communication because I believe it is important for the moderation team to work as a team. Despite any internal differences/disputes, the mods must publicly work together and not let their disputes and differences compromise their ability to moderate.

1. How will you help the site fit in with the SE network better? We are not a Q&A site! However, a most of the features built in to the site are designed for Q&A sites. Will you effectively be an ambassador for our site, and help us get site-specific customizations to fit our mission better? Or would you help the site narrow it's scope to fit that of a Q&A site better? Something else?

Right now, I feel that PPCG has a pretty well-defined scope. I wouldn't mind the scope being broadened somewhat (such as allowing more tips/optimizations questions), but I don't think it needs to be narrowed any. PPCG (along with our friendly rival site, Code Review) was created as an exception to the Q&A framework that the other SE sites follow, and so we have to work around inconvenient parts of that framework. The SE team clearly supports us (otherwise we would not have graduated!), and so I am confident that they will help us out with any site-specific customizations we need for the site to work better, though we could be waiting a while for them.

1. What would your average moderation schedule be like? When will you be active? What day(s)/time(s) would it be best for people to contact you in case of a need of a moderator? (This is of course an estimated schedule, and nobody will hold you accountable to it)

I currently work as a freelance software developer. Being able to make my own schedule for development and working from home means that I'm available essentially any time that I'm not asleep or otherwise occupied with important business. I make an effort to drop by The Nineteenth Byte at least once a day, so I'm always able to be contacted through pinging me there.

1. What's your opinion on letting experienced users essentially re-write a challenge that has potential but is badly worded or specified? I've done this once or twice because rewriting is far easier for me than explaining what is wrong (possibly multiple times).

Though challenges are written by individuals (usually), they belong to the community. If the community feels that a challenge could be improved by making edits that do not conflict with the original intention of the challenge, it is their prerogative to do so. However, if the edits would conflict with the original intention of the challenge, it would probably be better to post a new challenge, and possibly start a meta discussion about closing the old challenge as a dupe of the new one. Note that I say probably here: each situation would need to be handled in a case-by-case basis.

1. A diamond will be attached to everything you say and have said in the past, including questions, answers and comments. Everything you will do will be seen under a different light. How do you feel about that?

I make an effort not to say or do anything that I might regret later. Almost everything said or done on SE has a record (comments are the only exception I can think of right now), and so I try to be mindful of that. Granted, I have made some mistakes in the past (to err is human, and despite what some might believe, I actually am a human, not a penguin), but I don't have anything to hide.

I understand that the presence of the blue diamond next to my name will add additional weight to my statements and actions, even though I don't believe it should in most cases. However, given that I try to act as an upstanding member of the community anyway, that additional weight will not cause issues. I would additionally make an effort to inform and educated misguided users that moderators are here to enforce policy, not to create it without the backing of the community.

• For #1: Why would you make the chat room private? Would you not consider it a public issue? #5: Would you have any privacy concerns in a private chat room with the problem user? Note that any moderator across the network can access a private room. Mar 30, 2016 at 23:11
• @AlexA. For #1, I suppose a private chat room wouldn't be necessary - as long as it's not pulling them into TNB. For #5, I thought that private chat rooms could be limited to specific users. In that case, another form of private communication may be better. I don't have any privacy concerns about other sites' moderators being able to see what happened, other than the fact that they probably don't really need to know. I'll edit my answers when I'm able to in a few hours.
– user45941
Mar 31, 2016 at 0:01
• What do you think if some user A goes to meta to publicly question something about the behaviour of user B and user B does not perceives that in a few days and nobody tells him about that? What if the A's post causes downvotes or closevotes on B's questions and answers without B figuring out why or having any chance to post a comment or answer for his defense until it is too late? Apr 1, 2016 at 17:56
• @VictorStafusa I get the feeling you are trying to refer to a specific incident. Without you stating in clearer terms what you are asking about, I can't begin to answer this.
– user45941
Apr 1, 2016 at 18:02
• @Mego I could refer to a specific incident, but I want to specifically avoid that. This is a type of incident that I already saw some times in a lot of SE sites, so I prefer to not go to a specific case. This type of incident tends to create some distrust between fellow users regardless of the fact of who is right or wrong. So, I would like to know how a moderator would act in that situation. Apr 1, 2016 at 18:14
• @VictorStafusa I would consider that an issue for the community to deal with. There is no particular reason that a moderator would need to get involved, unless there was a major problem happening, such as witch-hunting, vote brigading, or other such abusive situations where a moderator would need to intervene.
– user45941
Apr 1, 2016 at 19:19